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Blackberry stands at the crossroads

Column Firm needs to bring something new to the market
Fri Jul 05 2013, 15:00
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CANADIAN PHONE MAKER Blackberry is having a pretty rough time.

Last week the company reported its fiscal first quarter 2014 financial results, which saw the firm post a loss of $84m for the three month period, while admitting that out of the 6.8 million smartphones it shipped, just 2.7 million were running its Blackberry 10 mobile operating system.

It might be too soon to say that's it for Blackberry, but if the firm doesn't ramp up its game we could soon see a smartphone market that doesn't include handsets with physical keyboards.

So, why aren't Blackberry 10 smartphones selling? I've been using a Blackberry Q10 smartphone for a couple of months, having been won over by its sophisticated design and sturdy physical keys. While there are plenty of good things to say about the Blackberry Q10 handset's design, there's little that excites me about the Blackberry 10 (BB10) operating system, and comsumers in general seem to feel the same way.

Let's be frank, BB10 unlike Blackberry's operating systems of old brings little new to the table. Despite putting its own spin on mobile with its latest release, Blackberry has seeingly pinched bits and bobs from iOS and Android and mashed them into an operating system that fails to match the appeal of either one.

Don't get me wrong, BB10 isn't terrible. Multitasking is great, and until I got my hands on iOS 7 it seemed like Blackberry was the only company that had really nailed a gesture based user interface. I'm also a fan of Blackberry Messenger (BBM), although with this soon to be arriving on iOS and Android, that's another reason for consumers to let go of their Blackberry handsets.

While there are some positive features lurking in the BB10 mobile operating system, it just doesn't bring enough to the table to compete. While Blackberry is keen to talk up BB10's enterprise features, such as Blackberry Balance, this is nothing new anymore. Blackberry used to be the mobile leader in the enterprise market, but Apple and Samsung have since swooped in on this sector, loading their handsets full of security features that are secure enough to have been approved for use by the US government.

The BB10 mobile operating system's biggest downfall however is Blackberry World. Blackberry has failed to convince developers that its Blackberry 10 operating system is worth making apps for, which means that its mobile app store is a deserted place full of fart apps and expensive games, with apps like Google+, Spotify and Instagram sorely missing.

While the same can be said about the Windows Store, Microsoft's mobile operating system is managing to attract a few customers because, unlike Blackberry, it brings something new to the mobile market. Microsoft is proof that this works, as it was revealed in June that Windows Phone has doubled its UK market share to 8.4 percent, whereas Blackberry's share shrunk from 13.5 percent to 5.6 percent in the same period.

Some might argue that there are always going to be loyal Blackberry fans out there who will be quick to snap up the firm's latest devices, but given the lacklustre sales of Blackberry 10 smartphones and the firm's U-turn on bringing the Blackberry 10 mobile operating system to the Blackberry playbook tablet, I wouldn't be so sure of that. µ

 

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